Talent is increasingly what sets both organizations and indeed nations apart as the global economy becomes more and more knowledge based. Each year INSEAD produce the Global Talent Competitiveness Index, which attempts to highlight the various issues surrounding the generation and recruitment of the brightest talents in the world. The 2019 version explores matters primarily from an entrepreneurial perspective, and, like it’s sister publication, The Global Innovation Index, attempts to rank countries around the world on a number of factors the authors believe are crucial to being competitive on talent (if you’re interested - Switzerland came top, just as it did in the Global Innovation Index).
Whilst the Global Talent Competitiveness Index typically looks at the structural factors that underpin the development, recruitment and retention of talent, the Global Skills Index from online learning platform Coursera looks instead at the skills themselves. The report takes inspiration from the Skills Benchmarking tool the company launched late last year to help organizations understand the talent they have, how their workforce compares with peers in their industry, and how any gaps can be addressed.
Both it and this Global Talent Index build upon the 38 million learners enrolled on over 3,000 different courses around the world to try and provide talent benchmarks for industries, and in this latter case countries.
So what does it find? Interestingly, just as with the Global Talent Competitiveness Index, Europe dominates, with European countries making up around 80% of the leading places in categories such as business, technology and data science. Just as with the INSEAD report, Switzerland scores highly, and is joined by Norway, the Netherlands, Austria and Sweden. Coursera believe that much of this success can be attributed to the structural investments identified so capably in the INSEAD talent index.
"European organizations are stronger advocates of combining retraining with hiring new talent, while their counterparts in the United States, for example, are more likely to favor hiring new talent exclusively," the authors say. "There’s also momentum within Europe to make learning on the job, like healthcare, a fundamental right. So while other regions in the world have strong cultures of lifelong learning, Europe’s may be the most robust."
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There is quite significant variation between countries, and indeed regions however. Whilst central and eastern Europe perform poorly both in terms of general skills and especially business skills, they score very well for technical skills. I’ve written before about the strength of the Czech Republic in areas such as cyber security, and they rank 2nd in terms of technical skills, with Poland and Belarus also ranking highly.
The researchers identified the trending skills both nationally and within industries by a combination of student enrolments, the search logs from the Coursera website, Google Trends data, and the estimated dollar value of a particular skill, which itself was based upon things like career salary, frequency of job postings and a general literature search.
This analysis reveals that technical skills are heavily in demand, especially in areas such as computer networking, database and big data, and cybersecurity. This marks an interesting contrast from previous studies suggesting that in an age where technology is increasingly capable of doing 'hard' tasks for us, softer skills like collaboration, problem solving and emotional intelligence are more likely to come to the fore.
By contrast, Coursera reveal that their technical courses are highly in demand, with softer business-related enrolments falling by 11% across the board, with a 18% drop in communication and sales-related courses. Despite this apparent drop in popularity, the authors do urge their technical oriented student body to reconsider and not overlook these foundational business skills.
This lag in soft skills is especially prominent in the technology industry, with the authors citing the various challenges seen in the industry in recent years as evidence that such skills are vital to both short and long-term growth. Indeed, if the sector is to thrive, they urge a renewed focus on skills like management and communication.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the report reveals that the automotive sector is most enthusiastic about learning, due in large part to the tremendous amount of digital disruption the sector is experiencing. Consulting also scores highly, due to the currency placed on knowledge in the sector.
Coursera hope that the report will provide a start point in helping governments and businesses to both understand the skills available in their constituents, and the skills challenges looming on the horizon.
“The accelerating pace of technology is making many traditional skills less relevant and many emerging skills more valuable. But skills are not evenly distributed across the globe, and businesses and governments struggle to understand where they stand and what skill gaps need to be addressed. The inaugural Global Skills Index uses Coursera's database of 39 million global learners to compare the skill levels of learners across countries and skill domains in Technology, Data Science, and Business," Coursera CEO Jeff Maggioncalda says.
"When used to inform business decisions, like which skills to prioritize in learning and retraining programs, these insights have powerful potential to drive workforce transformation, and in turn, secure competitiveness in the new economy. We are committed to working closely with companies, governments, and individual learners to put this data into action and set the course for transformation.”
It’s a noble endeavor that I feel may be over-reaching a touch, not least in the ability to extrapolate national trends from Coursera data, but their efforts are nonetheless to be applauded, both in bringing cost-effective education to the masses, and also in helping organizations better understand the skills landscape.